Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What in the World is Woot?

Well, Woot is a hoot...actually, a deal-of-the-day site with community comments galore and attitude plus. Thanks to niece Heather for alerting me to Woot's unique marketing approach--namely, sassy to an extreme.

For example, here's how Woot describes itself in the FAQs: is an online store and community that focuses on selling cool stuff cheap. It started as an employee-store slash market-testing type of place for an electronics distributor, but it's taken on a life of its own. We anticipate profitability by 2043 – by then we should be retired; someone smarter might take over and jack up the prices. Until then, we're still the lovable scamps we've always been. But don't take our word for it: see what the online community has to say at this Wikipedia article.
Above is Woot's special value-free DIY gift certificate, to be printed and filled out by the user for self-use or for gifting to a friend or hapless stranger.

Woot (now owned by Amazon) is definitely a marketing phenom best experienced by clicking around its site. And for another laugh, see The Street's tongue-in-cheek story...Happy new year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

McDonald's: Hungry for Global Growth

How can McDonald's build top-line revenues and bottom-line profits around the world? The dollar menu strategy has been helpful in attracting and retaining US customers during challenging economic times...but that's mainly a top-line effect. What's next?

  • To build repeat visits and encourage trading up, some McDonald's US franchisees are testing fancier (and slightly more costly) menu items.
  • The corporation is trying new decor in refurbished US restaurants for an updated look.
  • Novelty and convenience may draw customers: one McDonald's in Huntington, W. Va is installing electric-car recharging stations, the first in the US chain to do so.
  • McDonald's is investing in China to increase its business there.

2011 is likely to see McDonald's extend its market share and its profitability, thanks to constant product innovation and an international perspective.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Billion Dollar Brands

How many billion dollar brands (worldwide) do you think Procter and Gamble has? Take a guess.


Too low. Guess again.


The answer: As of this year, 23. Here they are, in alpha order:

Ace, Always, Ariel, Bounty, Braun, Charmin, Crest, Dawn, Downy, Duracell, Fusion, Gain, Gillette, Head and Shoulders, Iams, Mach3, Olay, Oral B, Pampers, Pantene, Pringle, Tide, Wella.

Procter and Gamble is always looking for new ways to connect with consumers and stimulate trial of new brand and line extensions. 

It has a link on its home page (see bottom line of screen capture) to direct consumers to "member" pages where they can print coupons, read about new products, and click to request a sample. 

Watch for more billion dollar brands to join Procter and Gamble's portfolio during 2011. Merry marketing!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ask Not What Santa Can Bring You ...

Ask how you can help Santa bring something to others! In this season of giving, worthy causes are hoping for a last-minute contribution OR at least a piece of your gift-giving budget (if you buy gifts from people/organizations linked to worthy causes).

One year I "gave" beehives through Heifer International; another year I helped rebuild New Orleans through donations to Habitat for Humanity. This year and last, I helped small-scale entrepreneurs through microloans via Kiva.

Many worthy causes are competing for us to play Santa through them. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times suggests some that aren't well known but deserve consideration on your nonprofit donation list. Time magazine discusses a few that have good track records for putting donations to use.

Not sure which nonprofit to choose for your donations? Charity Navigator, among other sites, will help you figure out who does what and how efficiently the organizations use your money.

You still have a few more days to play Santa. What are you waiting for?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Will Emotion-Driven Ads Fuel FiatUSA Sales?

Don't let me keep you in suspense: IMHO, FiatUSA's new emotion-driven ads are not going to take it as far as the company would like.

Launching "feel good" ads (four artsy, full-color pages in the New York Times Sunday edition, for example) while the economy is still struggling seems like too much of an indirect approach for our times.

Yes, the ads are laser-sharp targeted at urban hipsters in selected metro areas. Yes, the car's Italian heritage and styling are appealing to the target market. The Fiat 500 definitely has the compact, stylish look that younger drivers, in particular, often crave (squint, and you might have a momentary vision of the Mini-Cooper crossed with a VW Bug). The new Fiat may even have good gas mileage (who knows? nothing in the ads tells us), another consideration for many buyers. 

Even with great targeting, a good product needs good communication to reach its audience. And that's where I believe that FiatUSA could improve. The ads are designed to reintroduce the brand to US buyers after a long absence. But the campaign kicks off during the holiday season, when noise from competing and non-competing ads are a big problem. And the tagline "Life is best when driven" doesn't tell buyers anything about Fiat, let alone offer a compelling reason to buy.

Give me something to think or feel about Fiat and the Fiat 500, please.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Can Clorox Clean Up in Other Countries?

Clorox, nearing its 100th birthday, is facing intense competitive pressure in the United States, where recession-weary consumers are still squeezing everything they can from every dollar they spend. To keep growing, the company sees increased profit potential in international markets, both close to home and halfway around the world. For example, it's launched an outreach initiative in Quebec, building on local interest in hockey.

Developing nations in Asia and elsewhere are another important target for Clorox. In a recent interview with McKinsey Quarterly, the company's EVP-International points to the rapid growth of demand in emerging economies and the firm's drive to become #1 or #2 in product categories where it can achieve price premiums.

However, P&G and Unilever have long histories of marketing in developing nations, where they've built strong brand images and solid distribution networks. Can Clorox wipe away the competition in emerging markets and profit from its international strategy?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Super Bowl Marketing, Social Media Style

Although the Super Bowl won't start until February 6, marketing efforts by advertisers are already kicking off. It's a risk to start this early, because marketing activities might get drowned out by the year-end holiday messages blaring from all media.

However, by getting the ball rolling in social media, marketers want to build the word of mouth to a crescendo that reaches its apex on Super Bowl Sunday.

For example, Audi and Mercedes-Benz are both launching contests in which the goal is to help the car companies spread the word by tweeting, etc.

Not everyone thinks that putting social media at the heart of Super Bowl marketing is a great idea. Jeremiah Owyang complained that Pepsi missed an opportunity when it bypassed the 2010 Super Bowl ad business in favor of social media to trumpet its innovative social responsibility program.

In fact, Pepsi has decided to buy 2011 Super Bowl ad time for its Max soft drink and Doritos snacks. Not that Pepsi is a slouch when it comes to social media: Its Twitter account has 50,000 followers. Its Facebook page has nearly 3 million "likes." That's a lot of word of mouth!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Do Grammar and Spelling Count in Marketing?

Pop quiz: Do grammar and spelling count in marketing?


Penelope Trunk, a career expert for Gen Y up-and-comers and a serial entrepreneur, recently posted a blog entry titled: "Good Grammar Is Old Fashioned, Unnecessary and Bad for Your Career."

That's a rather controversial assertion. It's not a very long piece, so please go ahead and click to read it, then return to my blog so we can discuss. I'll wait.

 *  *  *

Here's one quote from Ms. Trunk's message:
Are you writing the copy for a billboard in Times Square that is only three words? Don’t have a typo.
This last is the one point of Ms. Trunk's with which I agree. Here's what I think, in a nutshell:
  • Incorrect spelling, non-standard grammar, and plain old misteaks--oops, I mean mistakes--can distract your target audience. 
  • If your communication is sloppy, why should customers trust that your product will perform as expected or that your service will be satisfactory?
  • If marketing is all about communication, and you want your audience to understand what you're conveying, don't have a typo. Don't leave any room for misinterpretation by misusing words or punctuation.
In short, get it write...err, right.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Suzuki Races into Virtual Racing Promo

Suzuki Auto has just launched an iPad game/promotion to support the release of its latest Kizashi Sport  car. Available on Facebook as well, the Ring of Fire invites players to become virtual drivers of a Kizashi on four fantasy race tracks. The prize: A trip to a real racing school. 

By associating the Kizashi Sport with racing and technology, Suzuki is building its brand image among younger buyers who like gadgets/social media and have been brought up on racing videogames. Now the trick is to convert players into buyers.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Do Not Track Kids - An Idea That's Overdue

A proposed law being formulated right now would block Web sites from tracking the online behavior of kids. Although the legislation is still being drafted--and its future possibilities are unclear--I think this is a good start toward protecting the privacy of children and their families.

Only yesterday, the FTC endorsed the idea of a "Do not track" online system, akin to the "Do not call" phone registry. In his public statement, the head of the FTC observed:
The FTC [recently] charged that EchoMetrix sold so-called “Sentry” software to enable parents to monitor their children online, but it failed to adequately disclose that it also sold information about the kids’ online activities to third-party marketers. The only – only – potential hint to parents was a vague statement buried 30 paragraphs down in the Sentry end user license agreement.
Hardly a transparent practice, is it? That's one reason the FTC wants to see a "Do not track" system, and I agree.

Also, I notice that the Wall Street Journal's story on the proposed anti-tracking legislation has 8 trackers on it (I know because I've installed Ghostery to count and block as many as possible). The New York Times's story on the FTC statement had only 3 trackers.

If adults want to consent to be tracked online, they can make an informed decision to opt in or out. Kids, however, aren't in the same category. Sorry, my opinion is that marketers should not be tracking what kids do online; businesses that value their reputation for customer-centric policies will welcome guidelines for preventing such tracking.